Praline Paste for Cereal Milk Panna Cotta

“Cereal Milk” has been trademarked by the Momofuku empire, and if you’ve tasted it, it’s easy to know why. The soft serve is mild, milky nostalgia in a frozen treat. I don’t have a soft serve machine, but if I did, I would definitely try to recreate it at home.

Most people can’t make soft serve at home, but Momofuku does have a recipe for cereal milk panna cotta with avocado puree, chocolate-hazelnut thing and caramelized cornflakes. As with a lot of Chang and Tosi dishes, the recipe is long and involved.

I started out by making the praline paste, which is used in the chocolate-hazelnut thing. Praline paste is just roasted hazelnuts and sugar or sugar coated nuts which can be ground up into pastes and powders. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted praline paste on it’s own before.

The recipe is deceptively simple. The ingredients: hazelnuts, sugar and a tiny pinch of kosher salt. While reading the recipe, I though, this sounds pretty easy. Well, I thought wrong. The first mishap happened during the first step. You’re supposed to roast the nuts in a 400˚F oven for 15-20 minutes, then let them cool. Let’s just say there’s a delicate line between roasting nuts and burning them.

It’s wasn’t too horrible, but the nuts were definitely on the toasty side and some of their skins were completely black. I didn’t want any of the skins in the praline paste so I didn’t let my nuts cool; instead I used a clean tea towel to rub the hazelnuts against each other. Rubbing them all together when the nuts are warm causes the skins to fall off easily.

Complete fail avoided, I then went on to the caramel step of the recipe. The sugar is put in a pot over medium-low heat and left to melt and caramelize around the edges before you start to stir it. I was so busy obsessively rubbing the last little bits off the nuts that I didn’t realize how melty the sugar got. A couple of quick stirs and it looked fluid, so I thought it was good to go.

At this point, you’re supposed to have your nuts all ready to go in a food processor. My freshly rubbed hazelnuts were all ready to go, so I poured the hot sugar over them and started to blend. That is, I tried to start to blend. After pouring in the caramel, it hardened immediately, making it impossible to processes. From the sound of the recipe, I thought that everything would come together in a “hot sweet mush” that would turn into a “smooth, even paste.”

Needless to say, this didn’t happen. I spent the next half an hour trying to salvage what I could by using a fork to chip away at the rock hard sugar. Thankfully hardened sugar melts away under hot water. I contemplated starting all over again, but since I didn’t have enough hazelnuts, I decided to blend up what I had left and see if I needed to add extra caramel.

The hard sugar and hazelnuts blended up great, so I suspect that some hot caramel got in the gears the first time around. The smell of the ground up hazelnuts and caramel was intoxicating, but it didn’t come anywhere near to a paste, so I made up a second batch of caramel to add in.

Thankfully the second batch of caramel didn’t cause the machine to seize up, but it didn’t make the praline paste and more pasty either. I ended up with praline powder: magically delicious praline powder. The stuff is seriously addictive. I was eating it by the spoonful until I realized that I needed to stop myself or I wouldn’t have any left for the chocolate-hazlenut thing.

Coming Up: Caramelized Cornflakes, Chocolate-Hazelnut Thing, Avocado Puree and Cereal Milk Panna Cotta.

17 Comments add yours

  1. That looks delicious.
    I’ve made pralines before. The sugar should reach 234-240 F, the soft ball stage. If you don’t have a candy/frying thermometer, a drop of the syrup in water will form a soft ball.
    When it is cooled, it should form a sandy texture. A proper praline is sandy. You seem to have taken the temperature much higher, perhaps to a hard crack stage. It will still taste good, that is the toffee stage.
    The other way to get the skin off of filberts/hazelnuts is to parboil in water that has some baking powder. The skins should loosen and slip off. After all, it is the nuts you want toasted, not the skin.

    Soft serve ice cream can almost be made at home. The texture of ice cream out of an ice cream machine is a bit softer and more melty than soft serve.

    Thanks for the info Andy! If I had known what temperature the sugar should have been at, I definitely would have used a thermometer!

    steph on May 25th, 2010 at 9:23 am
  2. This will be heading to my bookmark for future reference.

    Hope you get a chance to make it Penny! It tastes awesome on ice cream.

    steph on May 25th, 2010 at 9:24 am
  3. I know with a praline that Raymond Blanc made… he took the same steps as you did.. made the caramel, put the hazelnuts in and then poured it on a silpat to cool and harden. After it was hardened, he put it in a food processor and blended it until it was a smooth paste… I think putting in liquid caramel into a food processor was kind of unsafe, in case it splattered hot molten sugar all over. Plus this paste was made for his Delise which looked awesome. Put the praline into a mixture of crumbled bran flakes for the base and put a chocolate topping on top of that… I know i was drooling big time looking at it :)
    Just a thought for next time, then you will actually have a liquidy paste instead of bread looking crumbs of praline.

    After I did a bit of research, I realized that most people cool the caramel with the nuts before processing, so I will definitely keep that in mind for next time.

    steph on May 25th, 2010 at 9:25 am

    By the way.. i love your site… its cool to see this book put into action.. i havent picked the book up yet, but one of these days i will when I have extra money :)

    Here is that recipe I was talking about for the Delice, i spelled it wrong before.. I do that at times :)
    Just in case you might want to check it out…

    I took a look at the recipe and if I thought Chang’s recipes were involved, wow, that’s crazy! Maybe I’ll have to try it one day though, because I’m really loving praline!

    steph on May 27th, 2010 at 7:21 pm
    Mike on May 25th, 2010 at 11:39 am
  4. Okay, that looks so yummy and looks easy follow on how to do it. So, I will remember the caramel thing too.

    I feel comfortable following this recipe. It’s cool!

  5. You need to use a blender insted of a food processor to get past and not powder.

  6. I can’t tell you what a relief this thread is! I am making the cereal milk panna cotta recipe for a party tomorrow night, and my first attempt seemed to be an epic fail, with the sugar at hard crack, forming sugar threads in the mini prep, and the little bit I salvaged and tried in the Vita Mix turned out as powder, as well. I started to attempt a second batch, testing the sugar as soon as it was “very liquid,” but again, it seemed to go to hard crack immediately. I’m going to go again, and see if I can get it melted, but still “caramel,’ but at least I’ve now got assurance that if I get powder, the recipe will still come out.

    Oh, that was another thing that concerned me. There was no way my praline was breaking into the ‘small grains of rice’ that the book said they should be, using my Bamix hand mixer. It was chuncks or powder. So for the blondie pie I settled with powder, and picking some of the acceptable sized chunks out before blitzing more, so that I had some larger nuts and bits of toffee (I tested a couple of chunks of toffee to see what my teeth could handle, I didn’t want to break my friends’ teeth). The praline needs to be powdered anyway so it didn’t matter.

    Tahnee on April 29th, 2012 at 9:37 pm
  7. I made the Momofuku blondie pie on the weekend. Better than crack pie!
    I underestimated how tricky the recipe would be – quite fiddly. Totally worth it though. I thought it would be much better at room temperature but really really enjoyed it straight from the fridge at work today.

    I burned my first lot of toffee, the second was better.
    Question about praline – mine (cashew) also turned out quite crumbly like in the pictures. Is this how it’s supposed to be, or is it meant to be a liquid? I reckon it was perfect how it was, it would be too oily if I’d added any more oil.

    Your thoughts?

  8. As Mike says above, the caramel covered hazelnuts should be allowed to cool before blitzing. What no-one has mentioned is what makes it into a paste. You said you added more caramel when it wasn’t turning into a paste, when in fact you probably needed more nuts in it – it is the oils that are released from the nuts after prolonged processing that emulsifies the mixture and turns it into a paste.

    Amazing site by the way, I have the Momofuku cookbook and am amazed at your perseverance and determination, shame it had to end – well done!

  9. Hi, I would like to check a couple of things on this Praline thing. I have made 2 batches which was okay, but the subsequent ones just failed miserably. The first failed one had sticky chunks of sugar, which sticks to the teeth when eaten. The second failed one, just looked milky, I believe that’s over processing and the fat just separated from the batch which should be … irreversible..?

    The successful ones, they had caramel that were ‘dry’ to touch, and cracks easily. Ended up with ‘sandy’ texture which was overall sweet and non bitter.

    The failed one tasted bitter.

    So can I check the conditions to getting a ‘proper’ praline:

    1. Caramel color should be – Light Yellow, Amber, Brown?
    2. Caramel when cooled should be – Dry to touch? Hard enough to cut skin by accident? Shatters easily?
    3. Paste should be – Smooth without sandy? Sandy?

    Sorry for all the questions but I would appreciate if they can be answered :( It just fails when I need the praline for something important.

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